Federal court orders Michigan assisted living facility, owner to pay $15K in back wages, damages after Department of Labor investigation
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A federal court has ordered the owner of a Haslett assisted living facility to pay $15,238 in back wages and damages to six healthcare workers, whom the employer failed to pay during meal breaks when their duties forced them to work during or through the breaks.
The action follows a review of payroll records of Safe Haven Assisting Living of Haslett LLC from Aug. 16, 2020 through Dec. 12, 2021, by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Investigators found the facility and owner Tamesha Porter automatically deducted meal breaks from employees’ paid time and did not pay the affected workers when they worked during their breaks, which incurred violations of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company will also pay a civil money penalty of $3,618.
The division found the facility changed its policy and began automatically deducting meal breaks from employees’ paid time in August 2020, shortly after Porter purchased the facility. Investigators learned a facility manager routinely made notations on timecards when employees worked through breaks to make sure they were paid fully. The division determined Porter ignored the manager’s reminders and failed to pay employees for break time even when she was informed they worked through their breaks.
On Jan. 17, 2023, the department obtained a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for Western District of Michigan, Southern Division in Grand Rapids requiring Porter and the company to pay back wages and damages to the affected workers.
“Despite knowing her obligation to pay employees who missed their meal breaks to provide patient care and overcome staffing shortages, the owner of Safe Haven Assisting Living of Haslett chose to ignore the law and the reminders of a facility manager,” said Wage and Hour District Director Mary O’Rourke in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Caregivers who deliver essential services to help people unable to care for themselves are among our nation’s lowest paid workers, and these workers depend upon on every dollar earned to support themselves and their families.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2021, the average nursing assistant earned $32,090 per year , about $15.43 an hour. As of November 2022, the healthcare and social assistance industry had more than 1.9 million open jobs nationwide.
“The Wage and Hour Division encourages workers to contact us if they believe their employer is not paying them all of their earned wages,” O’Rourke added.
The Wage and Hour Division offers resources on wages rules for healthcare workers.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division and how to file an online complaint. For confidential compliance assistance, employees and employers can call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.
Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.
Walsh v. Haven Assisted Living of Haslett LLC, Tamesha Porter
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division